We often hear the phrase, “Faith Saves”. What precisely does that mean? “Saved by grace through faith” is a Biblical concept, to be sure, but it is often framed in such a way that it becomes a “do-nothing” salvation. False teaching has been carried throughout generations in this manner on the basic plan of salvation. Often, there is little consideration for the kind of Faith that is required for Salvation to occur. Is it just a “mental assent”, in agreeing that Jesus is the Son of God, and that God raised Him from the dead? Is it just simple belief, or is it something more?
The only kind of faith that will play any part in our salvation is a living faith. If our faith is not living, we don’t have the faith that Paul talks about in Ephesians 2:8 (“For by grace you are saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God”). In James 2:14-26, we see the need for works in our faith. Works are not a separate thing; true, biblical, living faith is shown in the obedience we display in following Christ.
This message is consistent in the entire Bible. In Number 21:4-9, the Israelites were commanded to look upon a brass serpent to be healed of venomous snake bites. In Joshua 6:1-21, the Israelites had to walk around Jericho 13 times in 7 days, blow the horns of rams, and shout so that the walls would fall down and the city could be taken. In both of these examples, we see actions that would not immediately make sense to us were we in their shoes. A living faith does not question whether everything makes sense; only that God has given the command.
Understand that salvation is not achieved through out works. It is only God’s grace that saves us. God has given us conditions to fulfill so that His grace can be bestowed upon us, however. Galatians 3:26-27 reveals that in order to be a child of God, we must be baptized in Christ, clothed in Him. This is simply one of the things that God has given us in order to manifest a living faith in Him.
As we have seen, the faith of the Bible is not just a mental activity; it involves our whole being. If we seek to have a faith that is alive, we will do whatever God expects of us; if our faith is dead, we will do nothing. -Steven McCrary
Let us suppose that a person understands that the Bible is indeed inspired by God, and is therefore His message to humanity. Practically, what should that do to their lives? Some admit that the Bible is from God, but that there is nothing within it that is relevant to us today. Some consider it a “self help” book that is just simple encouragement to make it through this life, but nothing else.
The Apostle Paul writes in 2 Timothy 2:15, "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." What does it mean to “rightly divide” Truth? “Rightly divide” means to “hold aright”, or “proceed on straight paths”. This tells us that it is possible to “wrongly” divide the Truth that God has given us. In summary, it is very possible for us to misuse the Bible, and follow error rather than truth.
The Bible has two major sections, called the Old Testament, and the New Testament. Within these sections, we find a unified message, but distinct operations between God and Man. Many today hold to the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17), without realizing who they were intended for – the Israelites. God made that covenant with them, and no other people (Deuteronomy 5:2-3). The New Testament tells us that the Old Covenant has been taken out by the blood of Jesus Christ (Colossians 2:14). This is just one of many ways that we can misunderstand and misuse Scripture.
The Bible, and especially the New Testament, contains Commands to obey, Examples to follow, and Implications to accept.
A command is when God gives a direct order. Jesus commanded His disciples to “Go and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15).
An example is an approved method of doing something; when we read of the Church of the first century taking an action, it means that it must have been commanded by God, and it is my duty as a Christian to do the same thing. The early Christians took the Lord’s Supper every first day of the week (Acts 20:7) – I must do the same because of that example.
An implication is when a command to the 1st century Christians implies that the same should be done today. Hebrews 10:25 says, “do not forsake the assembly of the saints”. That implies that there must be a place to assemble. This gives the local church the authority to have a place to meet.
The silence of the Scriptures is important, as well. When God has not said something, it does not mean that we have to say it for him. We cannot bind on others what God has not bound; neither can we say that “God didn’t say not to” in order to provide an excuse to engage in something.
If the Bible is inspired by God, it means that I must regard it as true and important, and that God’s Authority and commands are recorded within it. In fact, God’s Word must guide my actions every day of my life. If I fail to do so, it means that I do not regard Jesus as my Lord, Savior, and King. -Steven McCrary
Many today regard the Bible as if it is simply a book written by men – wise men, perhaps, but men all the same. In their minds, there is nothing authoritative about the Bible; we can get some good ideas from it, and some comfort, and concepts that might even make us happy, but it is not from God. This should cause us to pause and ask: is the Bible really only from the ideas of men, or is it from God?
For the atheist or agnostic, we pose a question: if there were an all-powerful creator God, what kind of book would he write? What kind of questions would it need to answer? We submit that the Bible shows us the will of a creator God who gives us everything we need to live and breathe.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 gives us an interesting look into what the Scripture really is. The Apostle Paul writes that it is “given by inspiration of God”. The word “inspired” means, literally, “God-breathed”. This is why we call the Bible God’s Word – it is the Word given and breathed by God. In this, we can understand from the start that the Bible is not simply the ideas of the men that wrote it, but the Word of God put forth, just as if God had spoken it Himself.
Simply knowing that God has spoken will not be our full understanding, however. We can accept that God has given us His Word without really trusting in it. The Scriptures tell us that God “cannot lie” (Titus 1:2, Hebrews 6:18). It is impossible for God to lie to us, because it is simply not part of His character. He will guide us and lead us with the Bible, and we can know Him and trust Him. This means that we implicitly understand that the Bible is absolute Truth, and that God will not lead us astray with it.
God wants us to know and understand His plans for us. The only way for that to happen is if God tells us Himself. 1 Corinthians 2:10-13 tells us that God has made the truth available to us by men guided by His Holy Spirit, who wrote in their own styles, but with a unified message – the message that God has for humanity. He has given us His mind (1 Corinthians 2:16).
Understanding that God has made His Will known means that we must then understand our responsibility to that message. God has spoken to us today through Jesus (Hebrews 1:1-2). God warns us about disobedience to His Word (Hebrews 2:1-3). The destiny of our souls depends upon knowing and understanding the Will of God through the Bible (1 Timothy 2:4). -Steven McCrary
To be faithful Christians, we must understand what God wants. How can we understand His will? Jeremiah 10:23 reads, “I know, O LORD, that the way of man is not in himself, that it is not in man who walks to direct his steps.” There is a common thread throughout all of the methods God has used to show us His will. “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.” (Hebrews 1:1-2). The author of Hebrews is extremely clear with these words. God in the past has used various methods of communication, but now He has given us the one true and complete way of God speaking to mankind: Jesus.
As the Bible shows, we must seek the “word of the LORD”. Jesus Himself is the embodiment of the Word (John 1:1), and everything leading up to Him is important in understanding what He desires.
When God communicated to Adam that the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was not even to be touched (Genesis 3:3), we recognize that this was God’s word being given to man. This “WORD of God” is a clear connection throughout scripture.
Genesis 15:1 begins, “After these things the word of the LORD came unto Abram...” The will of God carried weight in Abraham’s life, for his faith was founded upon it. Abraham knew that a divergence from what God commanded would be rebellion against Him.
In the time of Moses, we see the word of God given to him and Aaron, and then handed down to the people of Israel. When Moses approaches Pharaoh to free Israel, he does not say, “I am Moses; let them go.” He says, plainly: “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Let my people go...” (Exodus 5:1). In this transition period from the patriarchs to the prophets, Moses is a man who still is face to face with God (Exodus 33:11), yet carries God’s will not only to a liberated Israel, but to the most powerful nation on earth at that time.
From this point on, we see “Thus says the LORD” consistently attributed by those prophets sent by God to do His will. The importance is given not to the one bringing the message, but the One who has given it.
“Thus says the LORD” was a required element in the message of God, primarily to show that the message was valid. Of course, just because a person claimed to have a message from God, it did not guarantee that it was the truth (1 Kings 13:11-34); thus, God gave His people ways to determine whether the message was true or not (Deuteronomy 18), and He does the same today (Matthew 7:15-20).
Because we seek God’s pleasure, it follows that we cannot accept our opinion as a basis of truth. God will not be pleased with the opinion of someone else, either. We need the “word of the LORD”, and we should accept nothing less. How do we receive it?
Some might claim that we just need to be a good person, and we will get a “sign”, or a “feeling”, from God, telling us what to do. In fact, many who claim to receive these messages believe it validates their salvation. This discounts the necessity of the scriptures, for if we can still receive direct messages such as what God gave the patriarchs, we have no need of the Bible. Furthermore, how do we know to be a good person without the word of God, which defines “goodness”? Those defending personalized extra-biblical messages from God should be willing to test their content. Paul writes, “test everything; hold fast what is good.” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). John writes, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (1 John 4:1). In most or all of these claims of personal contact with God, there doesn’t seem to be much “testing” going on. In this author’s limited experience, every person who has approached him with individual experiences of receiving a message from God has never displayed a mindset of seeking to prove that what they have experienced is authentic; rather, it has been an almost automatic acceptance that the message is indeed from God, and that it is the truth.
Some groups might claim that we cannot understand the message that God has given in the Bible, and while the text is inspired, we need someone else to “interpret” the text for us. This invalidates any individual reading and understanding of the Bible, and negates any true influence it can have, except through a human mediator. Such a view does away with the only mediator, Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5). We need men to teach and preach the Word (2 Timothy 4:2), but we need no interpretation except what the Bible says for itself.
Still others are convinced that God accepts them no matter how they live their life. They claim that there is no moral standard, and that whatever way we live is right because God allows them to live that way. This, of course, is nothing but an unguided license to whatever lifestyle we choose. The contrast that God offers in His will is to “walk worthy” (Ephesians 4:1).
We receive the “word” in no other way than through the Bible. Man has been given everything he needs to understand and do God’s will in the text He has given to him. Anything more than this, or anything less, will not provide for our spiritual fulfillment. Peter wrote that God’s “divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.” (2 Peter 1:3-4). Jude wrote of the “faith that was once delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). Paul wrote that “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Put simply, the history of the Old Testament and the example of the New shows us that God communicates His will to Christians today in accordance with the way that He created us. God made us to think in certain ways, and He communicates His will through the reading and studying of the Bible.
The most obvious method of communication is when God tells us precisely what to do. A clear example is when Jesus tells the disciples to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you ...” (Matthew 28:19-20). He could not get any clearer than that. Most who believe the Bible is divinely inspired will not dispute that when God tells us something to do, we must do it. Jesus gave His apostles the message of the Gospel so they would proclaim it throughout the world, and the Gospel demands today the same measure of consideration, because it is STILL the “word of the LORD”. As Paul wrote to the brethren at Corinth, “If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 14:37). We know from our daily lives that there are laws that we must follow in order to be “good citizens”. God, the King of all creation, has told us what to do in order to be pleasing to Him and to become citizens in His kingdom.
Another way that God gives us His will is to show us that will being applied and carried out. Paul wrote, “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:9). This means that we do not need to be given a command directly from God to know what the right way is. We simply must look at the example of the Apostles and the Church in the New Testament. Again, Paul writes, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1). Since we know that those in the Bible who did these things were found faithful to God, we know that we can do the same, and be found faithful. We learn from examples in our everyday life, so when God shows us these examples in the Bible, we must consider them binding upon us.
Finally, God implies certain things about His will. No scripture is given to us, but every part is written for us. While a passage might not relate directly to me, I can still learn from what is present and what is absent. Jesus used implications to teach, such as his answer to the Sadducees concerning the resurrection (Matt. 22:32). “I am” implies that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are still alive in some form, proving that the resurrection would indeed occur, a belief that the Sadducees did not share. Implications can be the most challenging way that God communicates His will.
Even if we accept all of this, we will never understand God’s will if we do not take it seriously. John writes in Revelation: “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.” (22:18-19). We can obtain the “word of the LORD”, but that does not guarantee that we will listen to it and profit from it. James reminds us that we can ask liberally for the great, endless wisdom of God (James 1:5). If we are not seeking HIS wisdom, then our search for truth is pointless.
God communicates to us today, but in a very specific way. He does not use mysterious ways, or hints, or urges, or feelings. He uses the verifiable truth of His word, shown most plainly in Jesus. Do you want God’s will to be accomplished in your life? Begin by learning about Him. Hear Him, and He will guide you into a life of fulfillment and joy in His kingdom. -Steven McCrary